What's Cool In Road Cycling

The Classics: Het Volk Preview

While all the stage racers and those targeting the summer Tours have been sunning themselves in Langkawi, Qatar and Down Under, or keeping their form under wraps, the Classics specialists have been starting to get twitchy. All that nervous energy will be unleashed in the race which traditionally marks the start of Belgium’s road season.

The riders in the 58th Omloop Het Volk, sponsored by the Flemish newspaper, head out of Gent early on Saturday 1st March, for their first serious look at the adversaries they’ll meet throughout the Spring.

That means both their rivals in the saddle, and the cobblestones which will ensure many tired bones cross the line 200km later in Lokeren – the race winds it way across the Belgian provinces of East and West Flanders, and Hainaut.

OBSTACLES AWAIT
There might also be a number of very cold and wet bones, because few races can be hit by as much bad weather as Het Volk. In 1986, it didn’t even start due to heavy snow falls! Don’t be surprised to find rain, sleet and high winds if you’re in the area on Saturday.

We’ll see 10 of those famous Flemish bergs on the race menu, including Oude Kwaremont (51km), Muur van Geraardsbergen (84km, and often decisive in the Tour of Flanders), and Valkenberg (102km).

The last real climb is the Molenberg (139km) – this means that the final 60km run-in is relatively flat, and if the field has survived even relatively intact, those sprinters who can survive the hills may have a winning shot. Realistically, this won’t happen though.

SPRING CONTENDERS
That’s because the stars will be out in force as the build up to Flanders, Roubaix, Liege and Amstel cranks up. Heading the Lotto-Domo team is defending champion Peter van Petegem, a 3-time winner of the event. With all of the top teams sending their big-hitters we can expect a thrilling season opener.

Vying with the swarthy van Petegem will be a number of Belgium’s other superstars. Quickstep’s Johan Museew and Franck Vandenbroucke, backed up by Tour of the Med winner Paolo Bettini.

Tom Steels and Ludo Dierckxsens will lead Landbouwkrediet. The under-achieving Dave Bruylandts may have a shot now as a leader at the Marlux team.

Representing foreign interests we have a strong Telekom team with Nardello and Wesemann. Bortolami and Vainsteins will head the Sidermec challenge. We might well see recent Etoile des Besseges champion Fabio Baldato thereabouts. Another Italian at the other end of the career spectrum, Fillipo Pozzato will be there for Fassa Bortolo. Dario Pieri (Saeco) could challenge as he enters a make-or-break season in his career.

As far as the English-speakers are concerned, George Hincapie may well figure as he chases his Roubaix dream into another season. Baden Cooke and Stuart O’ Grady are already in winning form and could both challenge. Robbie McEwen is in doubtful form, but has stated his intent to be ready for Het Volk.

We can also expect strong showings from Scott Sunderland (all the while praying he avoids the desperate luck of the last 5 years) and Fred Rodriguez. As ‘outsiders’, what price a result from Flanders-iteamNova.com’s David McKenzie, or Palmans’ Roger Hammond who was impressively consistent at Etoile des Besseges?

First run in 1945, the past champions list is a roll-call of the great Belgian riders of the modern era. Van Springel, De Vlaeminck, Merckx, Verbeeck, Maertens, De Wolf and Planckaert. Also, modern-day heroes Steels, Museew and Vandenbroucke. Irish trail-blazer Shay Elliott took a famous win in 1959.

AND THE WINNER IS
This is a hard, glorious race, and is won with that magic combination of guts, strength, class and luck. The guy holding the very large trophy on Saturday night will have earned it.

HET VOLK START LIST
LOTTO-DOMO: 1. Peter van Petegem – 2. Robbie Mc Ewen – 3. Serge Baguet – 4. Hans De Clercq 5. Leon van Bon – 6. Glenn D’Hollander – 7. Aart Vierhouten – 8. Wim Van Sevenant

QUICKSTEP-DAVITAMON: 11. Frйdйric Amorison – 12. Paolo Bettini – 13. Davide Bramati – 14. Tom Boonen 15. Wilfried Cretskens – 16. Servais Knaven – 17. Johan Museeuw – 18. Frank Vandenbroucke

LANDBOUWKREDIET-COLNAGO: 21. Tom Steels – 22. Ludo Dierckxsens – 23. Lorenzo Bernucci – 24. Johan Verstrepen 25. Ludovic Capelle – 26. Kurt Vanlandeghem – 27. Tom Stremeersch – 28. Tony Bracke

PALMANS-COLSTROP: 31. Andy De Smet – 32. Fabien De Waele – 33. Roger Hammond – 34. Geert Omloop 35. Kristof Trouvй – 36. Gert Vanderaerden – 37. Hendrik Van Dyck – 38. Michel Van Haecke

VLAANDEREN – T INTERIM: 41. Geoffrey Demeyere – 42. Stijn Devolder – 43. Jan Kuyckx – 44. David Meys 45. Jehudi Schoonacker – 46. James Van Landschoot – 47. Ruud Verbakel – 48. Jan Verstraeten

MARLUX-WINCOR_NIXDORF: 51. Raivis Belonvosciks – 52. Dave Bruylandts – 53. Johan Dekkers – 54. Dmitri Konychev 55. Sebastien Mattozza – 56. Saulius Ruskys – 57. Christophe Stevens – 58. Geert Verheyen

FLANDERS-ITEAMNOVA.com: 61. Ronny Assez – 62. Staf Scheirlinckx – 63. Bert Scheirlinckx – 64. David McKenzie 65. Jurgen Landrie Jurgen – 66. Scott Guyton – 67. Jamie Drew – 68. Heiko Szonn

TELEKOM: 71. Rolf Aldag – 72. Kai Hundertmarck – 73. Andreas Kleir – 74. David Kopp 75. Daniele Nardello – 76. Dirk Reichl – 77. Jan Schaffrath – 78. Steffen Wesemann

COAST: 81. Stefan Adamsson – 82. Fabrizio Guidi – 83. Jaime Hernandez – 84. Christoph von Kleinsorgen 85. Andrй Korff – 86. Raphael Schweda – 87. Sven Teutenberg – 88. Malte Urban

GEROLSTEINER: 91. Robert Forster – 92. Renй Haselbacher – 93. Sebastian Lang – 94. Torsten Nitsche 95. Olaf Pollack – 96. Torsten Schmidt – 97. Steffen Weigold – 98. Peter Wrolich Peter

COFIDIS: 101. Peter Farazijn – 102. Tom Flammang – 103. Philippe Gaumont – 104. Nico Mattan 105. Chris Peers – 106. Jo Planckaert – 107. Robert Sassone – 108. Janek Tombak
FDJEUX.COM: 111. Baden Cooke – 112. Jacky Durand – 113. Bernhard Eisel – 114. Frйdйric Guesdon 115. Christophe Mengin – 116. Matthew Wilson – 117. Bradley Wiggins – 118. Carlos DaCruz

JEAN DELATOUR 121. Eddy Seigneur – 122. Yuriy Krivtsov – 123. Jean-Patrick Nazon – 124. Bruno Thibout 125. Sйbastien Joly – 126. Frйdйric Finot – 127. David Lefиvre – 128. Samuel Dumoulin

CREDIT AGRICOLE 131. Cйdric Hervй – 132. Sйbastien Hinault – 133. Thor Hushovd – 134. Lilian Jegou 135. Christopher Jenner – 136. Marcus Ljunqvist – 137. Stuart O’Grady – 138. Corey Sweet|

AG2R PREVOYANCE 141. Jaan Kirsipuu – 142. Christophe Agnolutto – 143. Lauri Aus – 144. Stйphane Berges 145. Andy Flickinger – 146. Julien Laidoun – 147. Erki Putsep – 148. Mark Scanlon

RABOBANK 151. Oscar Freire Gomez – 152. Steven de Jongh – 153. Jan Boven – 154. Mathew Hayman 155. Robert Hunter – 156. Karsten Kroon – 157. Marc Wauters – 158. Robert Bartko

BANKGIROLOTERIJ 161. Bert Hiemstra – 162. Jans Koerts – 163. Gerben Lцwik – 164. Matthй Pronk 165. Bram Schmitz – 166. Jan van Velzen – 167. Remco van der Ven – 168. Bart Voskamp

US POSTAL SERVICE 171. Antonio Cruz – 172. Viatcheslav Ekimov – 173. George Hincapie – 174. Joachim Benoit 175. Guennadi Mikhailov – 176. Pavel Padrnos – 177. Max van Heeswijk – 178. Matthew White

CSC 181. Geert van Bondt – 182. Julian Dean – 183. Tristan Hoffman – 184. Paul van Hyfte 185. Nicolas Jalabert – 186. Lars Michaelsen – 187. Arvis Piziks – 188. Thomas B. Eriksen

FAKTA 191. Frank Hoj – 192. Kurt Asle Arvesen – 193. Allan Johansen – 194. Magnus Backstedt 195. Scott Sunderland – 196. Werner Riebenbauer – 197. Allan Bo Andresen – 198. Michael Skelde

FASSA BORTOLO 201. Fabian Cancellara – 202. Francesco Chiochi – 203. Sergei Ivanov – 204. Kim Kirchen 205. Nicola Loda – 206. Roberto Petito – 207. Filippo Pozzato – 208. Marco Zanotti

ALESSIO 211. Fabio Baldato – 212. Andrea Brognara – 213. Stefano Casagranda – 214. Davide Casarotto 215. Enrico Cassani – 216. Ruggero Marzoli – 217. Christian Moreni – 218. Alberto Vinale

SAECO 221. Giosuи Bonomi – 222. Antonio Bucciero – 223. Paolo Fornaciari – 224. Jцrg Ludewig 225. Christian Pepoli – 226. Dario Pieri – 227. Fabio Sacchi – 228. Stefano Zanini

LAMPRE 231. Rubens Bertogliati – 232. Alessandro Cortinovis – 233. Alberto Loddo – 234. Manuel Quinziato 235. Zbigniew Spruch – 236. Maximilian Sciandri – 237. Marco Serpellini – 238. Jan Svorada

SIDERMEC 241. Gianluca Bortolami – 242. Gabriele Balducci – 243. Romans Vainsteins – 244. Fred Rodriguez 245. Mauro Gerosa – 246. Marco Milesi – 247. Mauro Radaello 248. X

Click here to see the official race website for Omloop Het Volk here.

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